Many health care providers fail to clinically diagnose flu in young children, researchers say. Consequently, these sick kids don't get antiviral treatment that could shorten their illness and help limit transmission to others.
Researchers studied children younger than age 5 treated in selected pediatric clinics and emergency departments during two flu seasons. In inpatient settings, only 28% of children with laboratory-confirmed flu had received a flu diagnosis from the treating physician. In outpatient settings, the percentage was even lower: 17%. Common misdiagnoses included asthma, pneumonia, or general viral illness.
Researchers say if more health care providers would use a rapid flu test, which provides results within 30 minutes, more cases of flu could be detected and treated early, reducing the spread of infection.
Source: The underrecognized burden of influenza in young children, The New England Journal of Medicine, KA Poehling, et al., July 6, 2006.